1902 Encyclopedia > China > Chinese History (cont.) - Tang Dynasty (618-907); 5 Dynasties and 10 Kingdoms (907-960).

(Part 31)


Imperial Era (221 BC - 1911 AD)

Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD). 5 Dynasties and 10 Kingdoms (907-960 AD).

Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD)

In the following year a dose of poison vacated the throne, and Le Yuen forthwith assumed the imperial sceptre, and proclaimed himself as tai-tsung the first emperor of the Tang dynasty. At this time the Turks were at the height of their power in Asia, and Tai-tsung was glad to purchase their alliance with money as the Emperor Justinian had been in 558. But divisions weakened the power of this mighty horde, and Tai-tsing, taking advantage of the opportunity, regained much of the position in Central Asia which had formerly been held by China. In 640 Hamil, Turfan, and the rest of the Ouigour territory were again included within the Chinese frontier, and four military governorships were appointed in Central Asia, viz., at Kuché, Khoten, Kharastan, and Kashgar. At the same time the frontier was extended as far as Eastern Persia and the Caspian Sea. So great was now the fame of China, that ambassadors from Nepaul, Magagha, Persia, and Rome (643) came to pay their court to the Great Khan. Before this time, in 635, a Nestorian priest, O-lo-peen by name, arrived from Rome, who so ingratiated himself with the emperor that he built for him a church, and appointed twenty priests to perform the services. Subsequently, on the death of tai-tsung (649), we find the strange phenomenon of the imperial power seized upon by a woman in a country where women were regarded as little else than slaves. On the accession of Kaou-tsung (650) his wife, Woo How, gained supreme influence in the management of affairs, and on the death of her husband in 683 she set aside his lawful successor, Chung-tsung, and took possession of the throne. Nor was she unequal to the office she had usurped. She governed the empire with discretion, and her armies defeated the Tibetans, who had latterly gained possession of Kuché, Khoten, and Kashgar. Thus, she re-established the imperial government in the west, and her generals proved themselves victorious over the Khitan in the north-west. On her death, in 705, Chung-tsung partially left the obscurity in which he had lived during his mother’s reign. But his wife, desiring to play a similar rôle to that enjoyed by her mother-in-law, poisoned him and set his son, Juy-tsung (710), on the throne. This monarch, who was weak and vicious, reigned but three years, and was succeeded by Yuen-tsung (713), who was in some respects an enlightened and able prince. He busied himself with introducing reform into the administration of the empire, and encouraged literature and leaning with wisdom and discretion. During his reign the king of Khokand applied to him for aid against the Tibetans and Arabs, who were advancing to attack him. Yuen-tsung promptly sent an army to his succour, and the aggressors were completely defeated. In a war with the Khitans in north-east he was not so successful ; and in the disorder which arose in consequence of the invasion of the northern provinces by these formidable neighbours, General Gan Luh-shan, an officer of Turkish descent, placed himself at the head of a revolt, and having secured Tung-kwan on the Yellow River, advanced on Chang-gan. In this emergency the emperor fled, and placed his son, Suh-tsung, on the throne (756). This sovereign summoned to his aid the state of Bokhara, of the Ouigours, and of the Arabs, and with these allies he completely defeated Gan Luh-shan and suppressed the rebellion. The promise held out by this energetic beginning of his reign was not fulfilled by his later career. He fell under the influence of the women and eunuchs of his harem, and died unregretted in 762. During the following reigns the Tibetans made constant incursions into the western provinces of the empire, and Tai-tsung (763-780), was compelled to purchase the assistance of the Ouigours against those intruders by giving a Chinese princess as wife to the Khan. At this epoch the eunuchs of the place succeeded in gaining an unwonted degree of power, and several of the subsequent emperors fell victims to their plots.

The history of this and the following century is for the most part a monotonous record of feeble Governments, low and vicious intrigues, oppressions, and rebellions. Almost the only relief in the constant rounds of these scenes towards the close of the Tang-dynasty was the iconoclastic policy of Woo-tsung (841-847). Viewing the increase of monasteries and ecclesiastical establishments as an evil, he abolished all temples, closed the monasteries and nunneries, and sent the inmates back to their families. Foreign priests were subjected to the same repressive legislation, and Christians, Buddhists, and Magi were bidden to turn their faces westward in the direction of the places from whence they came. With his death terminated also this policy. Buddhism again revived during the reign of the Emperor E-tsung (860-874), who, having had the to discover a bone of Buddha, brought it to the capital in great state. By constant internal dissensions and outbreak the empire became so weakened that the prince of Leang found no assumed the imperial yellow with the title of Tai-tsoo, the first emperor of the later Leang dynasty. Thus ended the Tang-dynasty, which is regarded as being the Golden Age of literature.

5 Dynasties and 10 Kingdoms (907-960 AD)

Five dynasties, viz., the Later Tang, the Later, Han, and the Latter Chow followed each other in quick succession between the years 907 and 960. But though the monarchs of these lines nominally held sway over the empire, their real power was confined to very narrow limits. The disorders which were rife during the time when the Tang dynasty was tottering to its fostered the development of independent states, and so arose Leang in Ho-nan and Shan-tung, ke in Shen-se, Hwai-nan in Keang-nan, Chow in Sze chuen and parts of Shen-se and Hoo-kwang, Woo-yue in Che-keang, Tsoo and Kiang-nan in Hoo- kwang, Ling-nan in Kwang-tung, and the Ouigours in Tangout.

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